Why is the Midlands such a hub for manufacturing?

Midtherm 2We’ve just interviewed laser cutting company Midtherm Laser about the UK manufacturing sector. They gave interesting insights into this robust industry and how the Midlands is a powerful nucleus for it.

Midtherm Laser is one of the contributing companies for our programme Manufacturing Excellence, which explores the technological developments within leading manufacturing companies. Midtherm Laser use the most advanced laser cutting machines to supply tailored sheet metal to numerous sectors including aerospace, construction and transport.

They put their success down to customer retention and a streamlined manufacturing process. Keeping it simple and doing it well seems to be the key, instead of aggressively targeting new business. They have a dedicated team who develop strong, working relationships with their regular 250 customers to ensure the production process runs smoothly and meets their specific requirements. Lucy Cottrill has worked her way up through the ranks and now heads up their Estimating team. She had a real passion for customer service and impressed the importance of developing rapport with her customers and being flexible to their specific needs.

Lucy Cottrill, Estimates Manager
Lucy Cottrill, Estimates Manager

Retention is a sustainable business model and has seen them expand by an impressive amount, enabling them to invest in the latest Bystronic laser machines. Having the most advanced machines also has a positive impact on the environment as it uses less electricity and nitrogen. I was impressed to hear that all off-cuts are melted down and recycled.

They also have an in-depth apprentice scheme, which lasts several years and involves continuous learning and development across the business. We interviewed Hayley Boyle, who has been on the scheme for 2 years and is keen to move into accounts when she has gained the necessary skills and experience. The company genuinely had a great working atmosphere and it was refreshing to see a manufacturing company with females in key positions throughout the company.

Hayley Boyle, Accounts
Hayley Boyle, Accounts

The Midlands really is a hot-bed for manufacturing and the reason it is called “The Black Country” is because many buildings were stained black from the smoke from factories. Thankfully Midlands’ factories no longer churn out this level of pollution but their output shows no sign of slowing down. A news report suggested that around ½ of SME’s (small-medium enterprises) were taking on new staff and ¾ of companies in the region expected to grow in the coming years.

So, the future for UK manufacturing looks to be positive and it’s nice to see it recovering well from the recent recession.

Our manufacturing excellence programme will be broadcast on Sky Channel 212 later this year. Please share this piece and check out this blog post if you’re interested in contributing to one of our programmes.

5 tips for a successful career in film



  1. Keep challenging yourself

I heard Martin Scorsese being interviewed discussing how he wasn’t completely happy with Goodfellas on its general release. Whilst this sounds incredulous it shows that no one stops learning and everyone can improve. Keep challenging yourself and broadening your skillset with new projects that push you out of your comfort zone. Feeling comfortable is the worst thing that a creative professional can feel.

  1. Trust your instincts

We all know that creeping, niggling feeling that tells us all is not well. Several years ago I kept getting this about someone I was working with on a spec project. The vagueness, extended periods of non-responsiveness and the never ending tall claims all contributed to this feeling. I ignored the feeling as I was passionate about the project. After sinking a lot of valuable time I eventually realised I should have trusted my instincts from the start.

  1. Develop a bulls**t radar

This is an essential skill that you gradually develop over the years. A well-honed bulls**t sensor can save you months, if not years, of flogging away at a lost cause. Are you being asked to work for free but are being promised the world at a later date? Does it sound too good to be true? Are you being paid in ‘exposure’? A talented actress I know retorted to a casting director that people can die from exposure! Be careful with that.

Ask very specific questions to get to the bottom of any vague claims. What festivals will it be released in? How will you fund the entries? What festivals have you screened at before? What key talent is attached?

Most importantly of all, thoroughly research everyone connected to the project before committing to it.

  1. Know what you’re gaining from a project

Working for free can be a necessary evil until you’re very established in the industry. If you do work for free make sure you know what you’re getting out of it. If you want new material for your show reel, make sure it’s different to your existing footage. Make sure you will be credited in the completed film. On a short film I wrote as a student I was credited, but after everyone else, including the extras!

  1. Know your strengths and weaknesses

Be as selective as possible with your projects. Whether you’re an actress, director or a writer you need to know where your strengths lie. Challenge yourself but be careful not to take a job that won’t reflect your abilities. Taking one project that you’re not suitable for can do much more harm than good. Be honest about your weaknesses, as potential employers appreciate that. They may even be willing to buddy you up with someone more experienced. Better to be honest and not get a job, than to be dishonest and damage your reputation.

As author Will Rogers said, “It takes a lifetime to build a good reputation and an instant to lose it”.

Please share this post on social media and check out our other filmmaking advice pieces here.

How to produce client films


At Collaborative Media we specialise in creating documentaries centred on particular industries. We will interview several industry leading companies to get the latest developments, breakthroughs and news. Our programmes are broadcast on Sky Channel Information TV.

In addition to the programme we also produce a film that is tailored to each contributing company. These can be up to 15 minutes long, but we find shorter films are usually more effective. These can be used on our clients’ websites, and some clients send the video link out to prospective clients. The films can be effective when combined with a targeted email mailer. Many will watch a quick, engaging film, when they wouldn’t read a lengthy document.

We love working closely with our clients and many give great input throughout the production process. We’re currently storyboarding for a client who wants us to make a series of shorter films about different aspects of their business. In cases where clients want a slightly different service, one of our Production Manager’s will manage the process. This allows one of our team to work closely with the client and to direct the filmmaking team to realise their goal… We ensure we avoid the awful yet hilarious PR disasters we discussed on our blog.

The key thing with projects like this is to thoroughly research the company. You need to know their USP’s, key attitudes, what they’re most proud of, and most importantly what they want the film to achieve. When you know all of this, you’ll be on your way to producing a tailored, promotional film.

We’ll be posting these films on the blog when they’re complete.

Have a read about our production process or fire over any questions to us. Please follow us on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.

Written by Martin Stocks | @Stocks1986

The best networking events for UK filmmakers



This is a relaxed monthly meet-up for filmmakers. Entry is free to Raindance members, otherwise it’s £5.

Envy Post Production, 46 Foley Street, London, W1W 7TY.

Tickets booked through: party@raindance.co.uk


Shooting PeopleShooters in the Pub

This is held on the first Monday of every month for Shooting People members. There will be no screenings, just meet, drink and network. Meetings are held across the country at local Picturehouse Cinemas or watering holes.

Annual membership: £39.95

1 month’s membership: £10.95


The Green Room ClubNetwork and Socialise

This prestigious social club was founded in 1877 by Sir Henry Irving, Charles Dickens Jr. Bram Stoker and other acclaimed actors.

It hosts a monthly meeting of minds that is mainly for actors, although a range of media types will be attending. Entry is free to anyone and is a chance to schmooze in a refined, classy venue.

There is a dress code, with jackets being required for men and strictly no trainers.

Address: Oscar Wilde Bar, Café Royal, 68, Regent Street, London W1B 4DY

RSVP to: jbozoky@aol.com


Triforce Short Film Festival

This is the 3rd year that Triforce has been running and it’s a great chance to get your short film screened, whilst networking. All short films will be considered and it aims to increase diversity within shorts.

Address: BAFTA, 195 Piccadilly

When: Saturday 22nd November 2014.


The British Film Institute (BFI)

The BFI is in a wonderful location on London’s Southbank a minutes’ walk from Waterloo station. It is the host to over 2000 classic and contemporary films each year. They also present The London Film Festival next month from October 8th to October 19th.

They have a series of special screenings and Q&A’s. A few months ago they had a screening of The Double, followed by a hilarious Q&A with director Richard Ayoade.

There are also numerous networking, pitching, and filmmaking opportunities.

Membership costs £40 per year and reduces the prices of their events.



The elegant BAFTA venue in the heart of Piccadilly Circus is the venue of numerous film networking events and master classes. I went to their two-day Serious Screenwriting event. I was lucky enough to meet Simon Beaufoy, shortly after he won an Academy Award for Slumdog Millionaire. He handed me his Oscar statue and somehow I managed to break the plating on it!

I’m sure you’ll have more luck on their range of networking events and seminars. Sometimes these are free for students. Have a look at their upcoming events here.



Animate Projects is a strategic agency that champions the best of animation and provides a collection of digital archives, interviews and critical writings.

Animate runs screening events and talks in London and around the UK. If you’re interested in animation you should look at their upcoming events here.


Documentary Filmmakers Group (DFG)
The Documentary Filmmakers Group is the national organisation working to promote documentary filmmaking talent and innovation in the UK. They offer a range of training events across the country. Their annual membership is £35.


Collaborative Media Blog

Okay this is a cheeky last one as it’s our blog. However, this is a source of useful industry advice by filmmakers for filmmakers. We offer film and business advice on everything from using Twitter effectively, to how to get filmmaking jobs. We’re always looking to connect with passionate filmmakers and if you’ve got a question we’d love to hear from you.

Please share this blog on the links below and do follow us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Tips to stop interviewees looking at the camera

Screen shot 2014-07-19 at 6.56.53 PM

Our production process sees us use a talking heads style. We produce factual documentaries centring on an industry and interview several industry leading companies. We broadcast these on Sky Channel 212, Information TV.

The talking heads style works well for our programmes as it focusses the viewers’ attention on the interviewee and what they are saying. We have our interviewer sat off screen, just to the side of the camera. This technique can be problematic if an interviewee looks at the camera. We’ve found it only works for an interviewee to look directly into the camera if they’re directly talking to the audience, or demonstrating a product.

If the camera is straight in front of the subject you can lower the camera, but it leaves the temptation for them to look down the camera. A trained actor may look slightly above and to the left or right of the camera but most interviewees aren’t trained in this.

It’s good to place the interviewee on the left or right side of the frame and have them look at the interviewer. If the interviewee is on the left side of the frame, then the interviewer should be to the right of the camera.

Ask non-crew to stand on the side of the interviewer. An interviewee may want to look off. If they’re on the left and need to look away out of habit, they should look to the top right of the interviewer. If they were sitting on the left and staring left, the cameras perspective will look like their staring at the camera even if they’re not. The reason they should look up to the right rather than down is because the cameras perspective might make it look like they’ve closed their eyes. Even if it doesn’t look like their eyes are closed it looks like their looking at the floor, which is never a good look.

Please share this piece and comment with any questions you have for our film-makers.

Here’s a funny article from Short List about the worst (job) interviews ever.

Written by Anthony Crossland.

Network Rail joins the public sector- Reforming the Railways programme

Still from our Reforming the Railways programme

Our Reforming the Railways programme is very topical at the minute with the furore surrounding next years’ huge rise in train fares. There is also huge debate after Network Rail joined the public sector last month. Our programme examines the current issues within the UK railway industry, with industry leading companies like icomera, Norgren and Furrer and Frey contributing.

So, what does Network Rail joining the public sector actually mean?

British Rail was privatised in 1993, which meant that companies would bid to operate their services as part of it. This was a very costly and unstable procedure. For instance, a train operator could win the contract, but then be outbid when their contract was up. This meant that the future of the rail industry was uncertain and was at the beck and call of the company who won the contract.

This system is a flawed one as the costs of running a public service railway far exceed the revenue that the fares generate. The Government then has to subsidise train operating companies. A privatised railway also allows operating companies to pay out dividends. Between 1997-2012 Virgin Trains paid out £500million in dividends, although they had received a Government subsidy of £2.5billion. So how can they get away with rewarding owners with money that has come from a Government subsidy, which was ultimately funded by the tax payer?

Network Rail moving to the public sector means that they are now accountable to Parliament. In theory this will apply pressure to stop dividends like these being paid. Currently Network Rail is in debt to the tune of £34billion. Justine Greening, Secretary of State for Transport in 2011, voted against these bonuses but chose not to demand action. This was a real pity and could have affected a huge improvement in the UK rail industry.

East Coast went a huge way to prove that publicly owned operating companies could be a very viable option for the UK railways. Since they took over the East Coast Mainline in 2009 they have returned £1billion to the Government. This is despite receiving far less in Government subsidies that Virgin Trains. They have also won a number of industry awards and have a a passenger satisfaction rate of 92%.

So an option for the Government is to wait for each franchise deal to expire and to then return the route to the public. Considering the success of East Coast, and the expensive and flawed privatisation system, returning the railways to the public is essential to the future of the railway industry and the economy in general. This could also curb the huge increase in rail fares under the coalition Government.

Our Reforming the Railways programme will be broadcast on Tues 30th Sep, 7pm, on Sky channel 212. Please comment below and if you enjoyed this article please share it on the social media links below.

Written by Martin Stocks | @Stocks1986

The Best Crowdfunding Campaigns

www.alleywatch.comCrowdfunding has quickly become a massive industry, which was worth around $5.1billion in 2013. This figure will only increase as more and more businesses, organisations and entrepreneurs move to Crowdfunding to fund their ventures. I look at some of the most effective crowdfunding campaigns.

New and exciting products and inventions tend to capture people’s imaginations and can really make for profitable crowdfunding campaigns. Of course the product alone, however amazing, isn’t enough to persuade people to prise with their valuable cash. A crowdfunding campaign is only as good as its video as this is what really lures people in.

Pixelstick is a brilliant example. The short video brilliantly and engagingly demonstrates how the product reimagines the opportunity of light painting. In layman’s terms the product allows users to capture moving light through long exposure photography and manipulate and combine it with your own images.

Pixelstick 1

In 90 seconds their video shows the visually stunning possibilities that the product allows users to make. It shows the end product before simply explaining what it is and how it works. This makes for a more engaging opening as it excites the viewer immediately and then explains (in a nut-shell) how it works, why it’s unique and how people can help realise the product.

They mention that they have a fully functioning prototype and manufactures lined up and just need funding from the general public to realise the project. This is a comprehensive and clever way to use Crowdfunding. The only thing standing between the creators, Steve McGuigan and Duncan Frazier, and their end goal is the cash that you (the general public) can give them. People love the idea of helping a brilliant new product or technology being created and they also offered a range of enticing rewards to donators. For instance a $250 donation will guarantee you one of the first pixelsticks to be made.

They raised $628,000, which far exceeded their $110,000 goal!


The Tile App is another example of a new product capturing people’s imagination and more importantly their donations. This is a small key-ring that can be attached to valuables and tracks their whereabouts. So the frantic morning search for your keys or wallet could be a thing of the past.


This is a great example of finding a universal problem and creating a simple product which solves the problem. Simplicity is the key to great crowdfunding campaigns and business in general.

The Tile earned $2.6million from their 49,586 backers on their crowdfunding campaign. The sheer volume of backers, who were each rewarded with the product, has caused huge shipping delays. By huge I’m talking around a year, and by this time the market has been flooded with similar products, which are trying to tap into this market.

Co-Founder of Tile, Mike Farley was interviewed about the pitfalls of crowdfunding and how they’re working to meet the huge demand. So, hitting your goal is just the start and you need to be prepared for what comes afterwards.


3Doodler is mainstream, portable 3-D printer that they have re-imagined as a pen. 3-D printers are all the rage within manufacturing, either small-scale or industrial scale, and finding a way to recreate the effect of a 3-D printer in an affordable way was a stroke of genius.


Wobbleworks are the company behind 3Doodler, and the product allows people to draw 3-D structures. The pen works by letting you draw with quick-drying, heated plastic that solidifies almost instantly. This brings to life any doodle you draw and creates immediate and distinctive sculptures.

Again they had a catchy video, which showed the possibilities of this product before issuing their call to action. They raised $2.4million, far outstripping their $30,000 goal.

I think the reason for this crowdfunding success, was how they allowed anyone to achieve the effects of a 3-D printer for a very affordable $99.


Finally, and closer to home for us Brits, was indie film Third Contact’s campaign to be premiered at BFI Imax. Director Simon Horrocks made Third Contact using one camera for around £4,000. The quality of the teaser trailer and the stills, made the tiny budget very impressive, which inspired people to donate.

Third Contact

Also, securing the UK’s largest cinema screen for the premiere was a massive fillet. This crowdfunding campaign successfully raised its £15,000 goal. The premiere was also screened globally online, with a live Twitter feed available for the Q&A afterwards.

I interviewed Simon Horrocks at the time for ONIN London about his proactive Twitter campaign, in which he spent months starting conversations on Twitter about the campaign. There were also a series of enticing rewards available to donators.

I think all of these crowdfunding success stories show the need to make people feel part of something exciting and worthwhile. You need a very strong, engaging video that shows the potential of the project and quickly explains what you will gain from donating. Also, if you can find a universal problem that you are able to solve with donations, when you’re well on your way to crowdfunding success.

Do you agree or have you got other crowdfunding stories that you’d like to mention. Please comment below or Tweet us and we’ll get back to you. Please share this post on the social media links below if you enjoyed it.